Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hearing vs. Control

Chasing butterflies through the internet led me to an essay about listening/hearing/mystery/paradox, containing this paragraph--
I, too, am a schemer, a performer anxious to have something to say that will impress. I, too, have said too much, using words to wound instead of heal, to manipulate instead of to free. “The simple fact of being able to express an opinion,” Henri Nouwen says, “to set up an argument, to defend a position, and to clarify a vision has given me, and gives me still, a sense of control.” A sense of control over the conversation, so it can go where I am most comfortable, so it can remain where I like it, so that I never have to admit I don’t know. This is one reason I am more apt to talk than to listen. If I talk, I can remain in control. If you talk, who knows where we’ll end up? “I like to do all the talking myself,” Oscar Wilde wrote. “It saves time, and prevents arguments.” (Denis Haack, "On Learning to Hear")
which cut me to the quick. Control: I'm addicted to it. Sometimes I look to words and arguments and self-expression to be my savior. Only a few hours ago, I sent off a very long expression of my opinion. It is full of vulnerability but it is also full of criticism, and though it is an admission of my lack of control of the situation, it is also an effort to exert control over it. Twelve days ago, I set out to write a brief confession/confrontation, and it grew, as I wrote it over the course of several days, into a monstrous essay, over 5,000 words long. Today, I brought it into the light again. I cleaned it up. I trimmed some scraggly parts, I sharpened a few edges.

And now I have unleashed it, I have sent it flying and flapping out into the world. I sent it to one particular person, and I don't know whether she will welcome it or do battle with it. Will it be to her a dove of peace, bearing an important message? or will it be a dragon, whose purifying fire threatens to destroy?

Having spoken, at great length, now I will be still, and silent. "She who has ears to hear, let her hear." I am listening for the sound of wings, feathered or scaled. I am waiting to hear what comes next.

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